Finding an Edge with a 48-Game Season

First off I hate that the season could be so short and it’s total B.S. that the players and owners are still negotiating a season. They should have started once the season was shutdown.

Also, I can understand if an owner or league just wants to sit out this season. This is especially true since other sports who have their sh…stuff together will be playing meaningful games soon.

With those two caveats out of the way, I am interested to see how a short season plays out since none of us have a playbook for it. The owners’ 48-game schedule is even more intriguing if Manfred decides to immediately implement it. The major impact for fantasy owners will be the games per week pending on where he sets the season start date. Here is how those 48-games could get divided up.

Games per Week with 48-Game Plan
Week in Season Games per Week
8 6.0
9 5.3
10 4.8
11 (one month from now) 4.4

If it’s six games a week, that doesn’t change many player valuations. Anything less than that, it gets interesting. With around 5 or fewer games per week, everything will have a playoff feel. Aces will be thrown at every opportunity and suspect starters will have shorter leashes, if they’re starting at all.

For the teams who have a plethora of extra arms, I’d not be surprised at all if they piggy-backed a couple of starters to keep their aces on a tight schedule.

Now, other MLB teams, especially non-contenders, could go with a more traditional approach. They will let their starters gain experience and may not try to squeeze every possible inning out of their top arms. It’s tough to know for sure.

One possible strategy is to build a fantasy starting staff like a playoff team. Get two to three reliable top-end aces and then just fill in the gaps each week from their bench or waiver wire. I think it’s going to be key to try to get ahead of other owners and look a week or two ahead for good matchups.

I’m even more worried about how closers will be used. The top guy (e.g. Hader) could throw in the middle innings to get out of a bases-loaded jam and not be in line for Saves. Closers won’t get overworked but their roles may be more flexible.

The extra days off extends to hitters. Aging veterans won’t need scheduled days off. Ryan Braun requires time off for his back (and other ailments) but with the DH and rest, I’d not be surprised to see him play virtually every day. Braun’s prorated 600 PA stats from the past three seasons is 26 homers, 15 steals, and a .270 AVG. This projection mirrors those of Ozzie Albies, Ramon Laureano, and Austin Meadows.

The other hitter class that gets a boost are elite, non-platooned catchers. They will no longer need rest since they’ll be off twice a week. It’ll be interesting to see how the catcher market moves. I’m guessing it doesn’t move much and there will be buying opportunities for certain catchers.

One hiccup to this possible inefficiency is the proposed expanded rosters. Teams could carry three catchers and with every game counting, catchers (and other lead-footed bats) could be pulled for pinch runners more often.

While some hitters could see more playing time, I think there will be more platoons as managers try to get any advantage they can. The level of platooning may be linked to the size of the expanded roster.

I believe it’s going to be key to Mine the News as much as possible and try to find a glimpse into every team’s strategy. I’m more interested in manager interviews than player ones. The fantasy community has had all offseason to evaluate every player. Once the schedule is set, it’s time to grind out the playing time differences.

In many instances, fantasy owners won’t have any idea what some MLB teams are going to do. I could see myself labeling players with known and unknown playing time. I’m sure some fantasy owners will lean into more randomness but I’m likely to focus more on the known. There is already enough unknowns in a standard season, aso why dive all in and add more? Not every roster spot can be replaced with an above-average waiver wire option. I want to concentrate my resources going after only the best options for a few spots.

If a season gets set in stone, it’ll be time to immediately start the grind to figure out who is going to play and how much. And I perfectly accept all these ideas will be moot if MLB goes with a longer season. I’ll be fine with that news. And so we continue to wait…

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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2 years ago

Our league already canceled our season. So I was hoping mlb would cancel as well.